February 2006

New Research adds further weight to arguments for change

"On the receiving end: young adults describe their parents' use of physical punishment and other disciplinary measures during childhood "

This recently published article reports on the outcome  of interviews with 962 26-year-old adults about their experiences of discipline in childhood.  

80% reported experiencing physical punishment at some time during childhood: 29% reported being smacked, 45% reported being hit with an object and 6% reported extreme physical punishment as the most severe form. Physical punishment on a regular basis was reported by 71% of study members. While study members reported more likelihood of physical punishment in primary school years, use of physical punishment in adolescence was still high at 47%. Boys were more likely to be hit with an object than girls. Mothers were significantly more likely to employ non-physical forms of punishment than fathers who were significantly more likely to use extreme physical punishment.
The authors concluded "For many New Zealanders, experiences of physical punishment during childhood are very much the norm. These findings have implications for the young adults studied as they now enter the parenting years, and for efforts aimed at prevention and early intervention for at-risk groups".

EPOCH New Zealand comment - Given what we know about the risks and poor outcomes associated with physical discipline we must be concerned about the extent of physical discipline experienced by this group of young adults when they were children.

Other research findings from the United States provides further evidence of unintended negative outcomes associated with physical discipline.

Childhood Physical Punishment and Problem Solving in Marriage (Alicia D Cast, David Schweingruber and Nancy Berns) (Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Volume 21:No 2. February 2006).   Part of the abstract reads:

"The analysis is based on 188 married couples in Washington State who participated in a longitudinal study of the first two years of marriage.  The analysis reveals the following:  Individuals who were physically punished during childhood are more likely to engage in physical and verbal aggression with their spouses, individuals who were physically punished during their childhood are more controlling with their spouses, and individuals who were physically punished during their childhood were less able to take their spouse's perspective."

In their discussion the authors comment:

"Our findings add to the growing body of evidence that suggests there are short and long term effects not only for the victims of physical punishment but for those with whom they interact as adults."

(Jane Millichamp, Judy Martin, John Langley) (New Zealand Medical Journal, 27th January 2006, Vol 119: No 1228).